Changing the Hashtag

Is it just me or does it seem like Christians have been acting a little meaner lately?

Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me, but it does.

My mom was one of those who said “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  And mostly, my tribe has lived by that.  Certainly you who read this blog are in that camp.

But, it turns out that church world can be a pretty darn ugly place.  Especially in social mediaville.  Go figure.

World Vision is a vibrant, effective, non-profit organization that exists to serve the poorest of the poor in Jesus‘ name. We believe the work they do, with extraordinary commitment and love, is amazing.

Two weeks ago the leadership and board of World Vision made a series of mistakes. Mistakes they are heart-sick about.

Mistakes that have undercut the trust of supporters, and deeply wounded gay people who are beloved children of God.

But I’m thinking, maybe the biggest mistake the leadership of World Vision made was to drastically over-estimate the ability of Christian brothers and sisters to live in unity and love while not agreeing on everything.

Sadly, it seemed to me that many in the evangelical world responded with swords of self-righteousness drawn, marking battle lines.  It felt like everything was end-of-the-world-dramatic and horrible.

As I read the comments and tweets and posts I thought about our two daughters who are very different from each other.

One is an introvert – strong, with brown hair…wicked smart and a runner. The other is petite, blonde-haired, creative and committed to social justice. She does yoga.

Both are followers of Jesus.

They are beloved children of ours.                                                                                                                                     They are beloved children of God.

They are different from each other, and different from us and (surprise surprise), we don’t agree on everything. But…

We wouldn’t say to either of them, “You can’t possibly love Jesus or spend eternity with Him or do good in the world because you disagree with us on gay marriage.”

But that, essentially, is what many in the church did in response to an HR decision that was trying to love employees well and fairly, and recognize that although World Vision as an organization doesn’t endorse gay marriage, not all Christians agree with them.

It’s like the church people with the loudest voices were shouting with hashtags like #WHOSINANDWHOSOUT.

I confess that there have been times when that has been me.

The thing is, I don’t see anyplace in my Bible where, because someone didn’t agree with Jesus, He said, “Nope, that’s it!  Not gonna love you anymore.”#REJECT.

I don’t know that He’d be a hashtag kind of guy, but if He was I’m guessing it might be different than some of the ones I’m tempted to use.

In spite of the loud, pharisaical voices the world hears and has come to equate with “evangelicalism” – I am encouraged by some gentle-strong voices of friends who are saying with humility and grace, “We may disagree, on some things, but we both love Jesus and are trying to be kind and brave and love like He would.”

I believe there are many who would like to model a different kind of love to the world.  I believe there are many who, even if they disagree about some of the things, would unite around the Main Thing.  

I believe many who love Jesus would like to encourage one another under a new hashtag.

What if Christian organizations and churches and leaders united around the love that Jesus modeled?  What if we flooded social media with words of compassion and life and encouragement?  

Maybe we could talk to each other about the places we disagree face to face, where there’s room for nuance and expression and deeper understanding.

Will you join me in changing the hashtag?


When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Don’t Know What to Do

I vividly remember the second time I ever saw my husband, John.

He was up in front of the congregation at the church I was attending. He was the youth pastor, fresh out of seminary and it was his first time preaching. He was leading the congregation in reading the morning Scripture passage responsively – him one verse, us the next. The problem was he was reading from one Psalm and the congregation was reading from another – the correct one – the one printed in the bulletin.

After a few awkward, “off” responses that left people confused, he stopped and said, “Have you ever made a really big mistake in front of a lot of people?”

I may have fallen in love with him at that moment. A leader who can own his mistakes and move on is rare.

But some mistakes are much bigger than others.  Sometimes owning our mistakes is complicated and the consequential damage can seem irreparable. Continue reading

Who’s Missing from this Picture?

This was the backdrop for our all-church worship gathering Sunday.

81 year old grandpas who really prefer the organ, and 5-year-old girls who like to twirl to the music, and 28-year-old singles for whom 10:30 a.m. on a weekend would usually be considered too early even for God to be awake.

Side by side.  Singing Holy, Holy, Holy.  And How Great is our God.

Continue reading

Drawing lines…and crossing them

When I was growing up we took a cross-country family vacation every year.  Mom and Dad in the front seat with Mom in charge of snacks and Dad in charge of car games.  Like Alphabet and Twenty Questions.

In the back seat were me and my two brothers, Cris and David and we were in charge of…Well, let’s just say we were in charge of surviving the road trip without killing each other.  We were kids, so to that end we would draw imaginary lines across which the sibling sitting next to us couldn’t cross.  With a toe or an elbow or a pinky.  We each had our own 3’x3′ “kingdom”.  Only kids would do that, right?

Not so much.

We’re still traveling in the Middle East and a theme seems to be line drawing.

Thursday night, John and I had Turkish coffee with a Muslim refugee family who have been living since 1948 in the U.N. refugee camp next to our hotel.  Their home looks much like a simple apartment except for the fact that they still have the key to the home they had to flee.  After coffee the father walked us through the darkened streets, showing us the different places where friends and family had been killed, one shot by a sniper shooting from the roof of the hotel where we were staying just a block away.  A line has been drawn between refugees and Israeli settlers.

Saturday night we celebrated a Shabbat service with a Jewish community to welcome in the Sabbath.  The women had to sit separate from the men, a line and a partition down the middle of the worship space.  On the other side the men recited prayers and danced and sang while we women felt a bit like marginalized on-lookers.  A line between men and women.

Yesterday morning we visited the Old City of Jerusalem, again divided by lines – the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter.

And within the old city there’s the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, commemorating where Jesus  was crucified.  It too is divided and certain religions can only worship at certain times.  There were so many crowds of people, shoulder to shoulder, shuffling along, jostling for a place to get close to a “holy site”.  And I kept thinking of Isaiah 53:6 – “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us to his own way…”

But then after all these lines, there was Nadia, who we met after driving to the border of Jordan.  A border with six distinct lines, each with a different requirement we had to fulfill before we could move to the next one.  I half expected them to say “Now do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around, cuz that’s what it’s all about!!”, but these guys definitely weren’t playing games when a guard raised his gun to John who tried to walk where he shouldn’t.

Nadia is a Muslim Israeli from Nazareth who spends one whole day every week traveling and crossing the border so she can attend school the following day in Jordan, working towards her doctorate.  She crossed every line – religious, cultural, language, and nationality to reach out to us and gently guide us through each step of the crossing, including paying for the cab we were required to take the last 100 yards.

Nadia got me to thinking about the lines we drew as kids and those we draw as adults.  Or just miss seeing.  Invisible lines I may be neglecting to cross, even out of apathy.

Am I actively watching with Jesus, for the foreigner, or the outcast so that I can cross lines like He did instead of drawing them?  What about you?